The job of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is to set and enforce safety and health practices in the workplace. Employees are accustomed to seeing OSHA safety reminders posted on walls and cork boards everywhere.
OSHA standards are not always followed, however. In March 2017, the agency released its list of the top 10 health and safety violations for the previous fiscal year.
Hazards making the list
The top five safety issues, listed by the frequency of violations, are:
- Lack of protection from falls
- Communicating hazards
- Unreliable scaffolds
- Respiratory protection
Rounding out the top 10 are powered industrial trucks, ladders, machine guarding, electrical wiring and general electrical requirements.
A year of serious injuries
In 2016, 4,500 workers died and 3 million more received injuries in work-related incidents. OSHA conducted 32,000 inspections that year and continues to pursue companies that do not comply with the administration's standards. No employer is exempt: OSHA issues citations in industries of all kinds, including construction, manufacturing and food production.
Tips to bolster compliance
To avoid injuries among employees and to ensure that businesses are compliant, OSHA encourages companies to develop or engage teams to monitor workplace safety rules. These teams can also recommend best practices to reduce injuries and the problem of liability.
The penalties for non-compliance
Business owners are responsible for the safety of their employees. For example, every one of the top 10 OSHA safety violations are common to the construction industry. Electrical burns and falls often occur, as well as injuries caused by working with heavy equipment. Any of these may be grounds for an employee to seek compensation.
In addition to possible lawsuits, businesses that the courts find liable for the injuries sustained by workers are also subject to hefty OSHA fines. Injured employees are eligible to file workers' compensation claims. An attorney can make a thorough investigation of the incident behind the injury to determine who was at fault and whether a third party can also be held liable.